Daily Press Briefing

Statements made by
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson
(excerpts)

(Paris, May 14, 2007)

[Please note that only the original French text issued by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs may be considered official.]


(…)

SYRIA

We are concerned about the recent harsh prison sentences given to Kamal Labwani, Michel Kilo and Mahmoud Issa, and the sentence in absentia to ten years’ imprisonment to Sleiman Shummar and Khalil Hussein.

France deplores these new attacks on human rights in Syria. It calls for respect for the rights of the defense in any appeal procedure that might be introduced. It also calls for the release of prisoners of opinion in Syria.

The European Union presidency has issued regular statements to this same end. I refer you in particular to the statements it made Friday after Mr. Labwani was sentenced and last month when the verdict concerning Mr. al-Bunni was announced. The Europeans are unanimous in expressing their deep concern at the repeated prosecution of human rights defenders in Syria.

EAST TIMOR

France welcomes the satisfactory election process which resulted in the designation of Jose Ramos Horta in the presidential elections in East Timor.

The strong voter turn-out confirms the attachment of the Timoran people to their country’s democratic institutions. These elections are also testimony to the resolve of the people to overcome the divisions and confrontations of the past.

France hopes that the upcoming legislative elections on June 30 will also take place in calm so as to foster national reconciliation and economic development.

(…)

JERUSALEM

Q - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said he wants to extend the boundaries of Jerusalem. Your reaction?

Our position on the status of Jerusalem remains the same and is well-known: This question will have to be addressed in the negotiations on the final status of the future Palestinian state. In this perspective, we call on Israel to refrain from any unilateral action that might prejudge the final status of the City of Jerusalem.

France and the European Union condemn any development of settlement activities in Jerusalem and in the Territories, which are contrary to international law and which threaten to deprive of substance the solution of two states living side by side in peace and security.

GAZA

Q - What’s your reaction to the situation in Gaza (clashes between Palestinians, resignation of the interior minister)?

We are very worried about the exacerbating tensions and clashes between Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. It’s a further trial for the Palestinian people. We call on all Palestinians to respect the truce so as to find a peaceful settlement to their differences.

Following the announcement about the resignation of the interior minister, we hope that the national unity government will move very quickly to appoint a new minister who enjoys the confidence of all parties.

The restoration of public order in the Palestinian Territories is a necessity. In the interest of the Palestinian people and so as not to compromise the relaunch of the process of negotiation with the Israeli side, the goal of all Palestinian political leaders must be to end the insecurity in the Territories.

(…)

IRAN/UNITED STATES

Q - What’s your reaction to the news of a high-level meeting between Iranian and American officials? What can the French government expect from this encounter?

We have taken note of the announcement of these upcoming high-level discussions about Iraq between American and Iranian diplomats.

We have always thought that such contacts might be useful for stabilizing Iraq in its regional environment.

UNITED STATES/GULF REGION

Q - Do you have any comment on Vice President Dick Cheney’s visit to the Gulf region?

It is not for us to comment on the movements of the American vice president.

In general, and in the wake of the conferences at Sharm el-Sheikh on Iraq, we are in favor of all efforts that may help restore the country’s stability.

AFGHANISTAN

Q - How does France assess the death of Taliban leader Mullah Dadullah? Are you expecting retaliation against NATO forces or abductions as happened with French and Italian nationals recently? Is France, with Mr. Sarkozy as president, still reconsidering its commitment in Afghanistan?

I don’t wish to comment on these latest events. In general the international community and France are committed to Afghanistan’s stability and development, as you know. This is the purpose of the collective action that is being carried out in the country under the aegis of the UN.

I naturally can’t second guess decisions that will be taken by the newly elected president, in liaison with our partners.

Embassy of France, May 14, 2007